Backers of a gay-inclusive domestic
partnership law in Washington State sued election officials Thursday.
They claim officials have accepted thousands of invalid signatures
from a referendum that would place the law up for a vote.
The political group Washington Families
Standing Together alleges Secretary of State Sam Reed has accepted
thousands of “defective petitions” and signatures of people who
were not registered voters at the time they signed the petitions.
Reed accepted “thousands of
signatures on petitions where the required declarations were either
left blank, not signed by the person who circulated the petitions or
not signed by the declarant,” the complaint says.
“Plaintiffs have received
confirmation from the SOS (Secretary of State) that the Secretary has
accepted thousands of petitions on which the signature-gatherer who
circulated the petition did not sign the declaration.”
“Likewise, the Plaintiffs received
confirmation from the SOS that the Secretary was ignoring the
requirement that only individuals who were duly registered voters
could legally sign petitions.”
The complaint says that Secretary Reed
relied on the advice of Attorney General Rob McKenna in his decision
Opponents of the gay partner law –
dubbed the “everything but marriage” law by the media –
submitted 137,689 signatures on July 25 to qualify Referendum 71,
which would force a vote on the law. But that's lower than the
150,000 signatures suggested by state officials, giving the petition
a tight 12.4 percent margin of error it cannot exceed to qualify.
“Because of the limited number of
signatures turned in, failure to enforce these laws could well lead
to a measure being qualified for the ballot that should not be, and
that measure has the potential to strip away important protections
from thousands of families across the state,” the group's
chairwoman, Anne Levinson, said in a statement.
A hearing in the case is expected to
take place in a King County courtroom next week.
If it qualifies and fails in November,
the measure would only repeal rights approved by lawmakers this year,
the second time the domestic partnership law has been expanded.
Governor Chris Gregoire signed into law the original bill that
created the domestic partnership law and the two extensions.
Elections officials said Thursday the
signature-checking process will likely be completed by Tuesday.